We’re quickly approaching a pleasant but often challenging and busy time of year. Given all that you need to accomplish—grading, testing, creating reports, completing research… not to mention tending to personal responsibilities—you probably rely heavily on proven time-management techniques to make it through each day. In addition, you may use planners to maintain your schedule, or you may rely on productivity apps that help you complete your work and stay on track while you’re on the go.
As thoughtfully as you plan, and as diligently as you work, you only receive the twenty-four hours per day allotted to everyone. So, how do you go beyond simply planning your time to making the most of the time that’s available to you? In their book ADJUST, authors Wayne Weiten, Elizabeth Yost Hammer, and Dana S. Dunn suggest five research-backed ways that you can ensure you’re using your time effectively. We’ve summarized them below:
- Track how you use your time. Every day, for two weeks, use a paper journal or an app to keep a detailed record of how you’ve spent each day. At the end of those two weeks, analyze the time spent. Observe where you’ve used your time efficiently, as well as how you might avoid wasting time. This initial assessment can serve as a reference point for the future: refer back to this analysis, and check to see if your changes are truly increasing your effectiveness.
- Establish your goals and priorities. If you haven’t settled on your goals and priorities, it’s even more difficult to manage your time in a way that makes your dreams, wishes, and best intentions a reality. But, once you do set your goals and define your priorities, you’ll better be able to spend the majority of your time on the activities, endeavors, and relationships that matter most.
- Create a schedule (and be sure to follow it!). At the beginning of the week, write down what you need to accomplish. Turn those activities into a “to-do” list for each day, and assign both time slots and deadlines to each activity. If a large project or significant event is looming, break it down into several steps; for example, if you’re planning a birthday party, turn each step of the process (planning the menu, writing your grocery list, shopping for groceries, ordering a cake, and so on) into a to-do item.
- Block off “quiet time” on your schedule. Have you noticed that you’re most productive at certain times of day? Set that time aside for your most critical or challenging tasks. If necessary, let your colleagues, friends, and family know that you will generally be inaccessible during those times. It also helps to carve out a specific time when you will be available, so that you can let others know that as well (e.g., “I’ll be available at three tomorrow if you need to discuss our project”).
- Use your time as efficiently as you can. Some helpful ideas, gleaned from time-management researchers such as Klassen and Schilit, include: dealing with paperwork as soon as possible instead of filing it away for “later,” handling one matter at a time instead of multi-tasking, grouping similar activities together (e.g., paying all your bills at once), and using any “down time” (such as waiting at the train station or waiting for your child to get out of school) to get reading or simple tasks done. (Weiten et al., 87-88)
Reference: Weiten, Wayne, Elizabeth Yost Hammer, and Dana S. Dunn. 2014. ADJUST. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.
How have you increased your effectiveness? Share your strategies below.